Plant of the Week: Red Feather Clover

Without the work of bees and other pollinators, we would not have fruits, nuts, berries or vegetables. But despite their importance to our very existence, many people have an irrational fear of bees. For people with an allergy, a bee sting can be serious, but for most it's merely an annoyance. And the odds of getting stung by a bee while visiting a garden are extremely low. In fact, with many obstacles leading to a collapse in honeybee populations nationwide, they have much more to fear from humans than we do from them. At the High Line, we try to invite more bees into the garden. We do this by selecting plants that bees love, including this week's Trifolium rubens or red feather clover.

Photo by Ayinde Listhrop.

Red feather clover is a perennial member of the fabaceae family (aka the legume or pea family) with striking, bright pink flowers. It is a magnet for bees, butterflies and even hummingbirds from late spring to early summer. The plants reach a height of 12-24", and like all members of the pea family, add nitrogen to the soil, which benefits other plants. It can survive in USDA climate zones 3a to 8b. Trifolium rubens is originally native to Eastern Europe. Here in New York, it's a little-used but very attractive late spring bloomer.

Photo by Ayinde Listhrop.

Most people don't realize that honey bees are not native to the United States. While honey bees are now extremely important to agriculture, we also have thousands of species of native bees. New York City alone is home to 184 species of bee, many of which do not even sting! Native bees are also struggling due to loss of habitat, lack of native plants, and pesticides. Home gardeners can do a few things to attract these fascinating and beneficial visitors. Try to have plants that will bloom through the season, from early spring through late fall, so there is always something for pollinators to eat. Select plants native to your region, and never use pesticides.

Photo by Ayinde Listhrop.

The High Line features of mix of plants from North America, Europe and Asia, but native bees love native plants. Eastern bee balm (Monarda bradburiana) is a pollinator favorite, native to Virginia and the Midwest and currently in bloom on the High Line. It's a perennial with spotted pink flowers, and bees love it. Other High Line plants that encourage pollinators include New York natives Swamp Milkweed (Asclepias incarnata), Showy Goldenrod (Solidago speciosa) and Mountain Mint (Pycnanthemum muticum), all of which will emerge this summer.

Red feather clover makes a great, low maintenance addition to a garden border. Grow in full sun to part shade, and make sure not to over-water. Monitor seedlings to assure the plant does not spread more than you'd like

Red feather clover can be found in the Chelsea Grasslands between 18th and 20th Streets.

The High Line's planting design is inspired by the self-seeded landscape that grew up between rail tracks after the trains stopped running in the 1980s. Today, the High Line includes more than 500 species of perennials, grasses, shrubs, and trees – each chosen for their hardiness, adaptability, diversity, and seasonal variation in color and texture. Some of the species that originally grew on the High Line's rail bed are reflected in the park landscape today. Every week we share one of our gardeners' current favorites with you

Our horticultural team counts on members and friends like you to help keep the High Line beautiful and thriving. Join our community of supporters who play an essential role in the High Line's most important gardening projects.

TD Bank is the Presenting Green Sponsor of the High Line.

Recent Posts
Plant of the Week: Sea Lavender
view post
Open Encounter: A Conversation with Brendan Fernandes
view post